Welcome back to Punky Brewster Season 1. Spoilers ahead if you continue reading.
THE QUICK & CLEAN SUMMARY:
Punky Brewster’s dog Brandon ate some of Henry’s rare stamp collection. Henry was furious. Punky took Brandon for a walk, off leash, while Henry cooled down, during which Brandon was hit by a car.
It was a very close call for Punky’s dog but he eventually pulled though and recovered.
THE EXTRA DUSTY REVIEW & RECAP:
I have wanted a Brandon-centered episode, but I am so scared of this episode title. Don’t you dare do anything bad to Brandon, Punky Brewster writers! DON’T YOU DARE!
♪What’s gonna be? Guess we’ll just wait and see.♪♪
That song has never felt more ominous and terrifying to me than it does right now. I’m sweating.
We’re starting the episode off alright. Punky, Cherie, and Allen are attempting to build Brandon a dog house. They… do not succeed. It was assembled one moment. But it collapsed the next.
A: Brandon, you should have gotten homeowner’s insurance.
Henry bursts into the room and tells the children he has a wonderful surprise. He has a zeal in his eyes unlike anything I’ve ever seen from him. I don’t like it. Zealous Henry never ends well for anyone. He tells the kids it has something to do with royalty, which leads Punky to conclude – with her own strange zeal – that it’s Prince. The episode even gives us a short guitar riff as the scene location changes.
The kids look for him in the living room. Of course, Henry’s surprise has nothing to do with Purple Rain. For some reason, perhaps a lack of adult human friendship, Henry expresses excitement to the kids over his estate sale purchase of some rare stamps. He has purchased “the Crowned Heads of Europe” series.
A: [trying to sound sincere] They’re really neat, Mr. Warnimont.
H: Thank you, Allen. I always knew you had a bit of a philatelist in you.
A: I do? Am I gonna die?
Allen is the best. Unfortunately, on this show, the answer to his question is probably yes.
Henry goes on to show the children his stamp collection. The camera cuts back and forth between the bored children looking at stamps, and Brandon falling asleep. Every time that Henry asks them if they want to see more, Allen says yes. Punky continues to hit him after he does.
Mrs. Johnson comes to the apartment door with a complaint. The sawing and rattling, from downstairs, has vibrated one of her prized possessions off of her “whatnot shelf.” The possession? A “Mr. T Teacup.” Yes, these are a real thing and they’re amazing.
Mrs. Johnson: All the crazy glue, and all the Fix-It men, couldn’t put Mr. T back together again.
During the conversation between Henry and Mrs. Johnson, Brandon jumps up off of his spot on the floor, grabs Henry’s new stamps, carries them into the kitchen, and as Punky pleads with him not to do it, he swallows the Crowned Heads of Europe. Punky tries to pry open Brandon’s mouth but it’s too late. Henry’s Kaiser Wilhelm stamp has already crossed the proverbial rainbow bridge.
Allen suggests that he and Cherie go home. And so they do.
Ever the problem solver, Punky decides to replace the stamps. She quickly cuts out four small squares of paper and draws pictures on them to replace what is now missing. This does not fool Henry. When she confesses, Henry predictably is a combination of incredulous and outraged.
H: You’re a bad dog! BAD DOG!
Punky decides to take Brandon for a walk. At the door, she tells Henry that Brandon is not a bad dog. “He’s just a dog that’s had a bad day.”
[I’m so nervous for Brandon on this walk. This show teaches lessons in soul-ripping ways. Is Brandon about to be hit by a bus? Mauled by a bear while heroically saving Punky from said bear? Will he get rabies and Punky will have to shoot him?]
While Henry is on the phone, calling the Estate Sale he went to that morning, checking to see if they have more stamps for sale, we hear through the window a little girl scream and a set of car tires squeal.
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
Punky runs back into the building by herself and meets Henry in the hallway.
HENRY! BRANDON’S BEEN HIT BY A CAR AND HE’S NOT MOVING!
In the next scene, we are at the vet’s office. A member of the vet staff will not let Punky go back to see Brandon. She tearfully asks the vet tech, “please don’t let him die.” *SOBS*
In the office waiting room, an older woman, Mrs. Carney, assures Punky that the vet is very good and she asks Punky about what happened. Here we go. Punky and Brandon were crossing the street. A car forgot to stop at a red light. The next thing Punky knows, Brandon is pushing her out of the way. Punky blames herself for not having him on his leash.
The vet comes out of the operating room. Brandon has a broken leg and a severe concussion. Despite being told that he is not sure if Brandon will recover, Henry overrules the vet and tells Punky instead, “Of course he will. He’s got to.” I am reminded of the time that Henry told Punky she would not go to an orphanage – moments before a social worker took her to Fenster Hall.
Later, we see Punky leaning against a now knitting Mrs. Carney who is still waiting on the results of her dog Angus’s surgery. Angus is a Scottie. Mrs. Carney tells us that Angus is very old but that she hopes the surgery will prolong his life by a couple of years. We learn that Angus has been this woman’s best friend ever since her husband Howard died.
Punky: I’m sorry about your husband. I bet you really miss him.
Mrs. Carney: Oh no. Angus is a better companion than Howard ever was. Angus is neat, loyal, and trustworthy. I never did know where Howard was at night.
When Punky tells Mrs. Carney that she hopes she and Angus will be together a long time, we get more tugs on the old heartstrings. As she is tearing up, Mrs. Carney says “I hope so. I honestly do not know what I’d do without him.”
Henry comes into the waiting room with Deep Dish Puppy Pizza. We find out that he is blaming himself.
H: This is my fault. If I hadn’t yelled at him about those stupid stamps, this wouldn’t have happened.
Some good news. Angus is out of surgery and doing better. HOWEVER. While the vet is out in the waiting room, he advises Henry that they need to consider putting Brandon down. When Henry says absolutely not, the vet counters that it’s the only humane thing to do at this point.
Henry tells Punky this terrible news and she shares what we are all feeling. “NOOOO!”
Eyes filled with tears, Punky goes back to the operating area to say goodbye to Brandon.
[Alright, Punky Power. This is your ultimate test.]
P: Thanks for pushing me out of the way of that car. You saved my life. You wanna know the truth? I’d rather have gotten hit. Brandon, Dr. Frankel is going to give you something to make you stay asleep. But when you wake up you’ll be in heaven. Brandon you’re my best friend in the whole world and I’m really gonna miss you.
::she walks to the door to leave::
No, Brandon! This isn’t right! I can’t give up! I’m not gonna let you die! You still have squirrels to chase! And bones to bury! You’re gonna be around for a long, long time! But first you’ve gotta wake up! Brandon, wake up! Please Brandon, I love you! I love you. I love you.
Brandon makes a whining sound. Then he opens his eyes. Then he moves his head. Punky calls for Henry and tells him that Brandon is awake. Henry runs in and tells Brandon that he’s a good dog and that from now on he can eat all the stamps he wants.
As this is happening, Mrs. Carney comes into the room where they are with Brandon, with tears on her face. Angus has died.
Henry offers to drive her home, but she declines saying she’d like a walk. Punky follows her out into the waiting room, tugs on her arm, and gives her a hug. They both cry.
When Punky goes back to the room with Henry and Brandon, she asks Henry why Brandon lived and Angus died. Mrs. Carney loved Angus just as much as she loved Brandon. Henry tells her he doesn’t know.
Some time later, we see Henry, Punky, and Brandon return to the apartment. Brandon has a cast on his leg. Henry has a surprise for Brandon beneath a sheet in the living room. It’s a dog house! Brandon barks, hobbles over, sticks his head inside, then comes back out and jumps up on the chair.
I am very tempted to just type *SOBS* and leave it at that. I guess there is a niche of television built around making people cry (*cough* “This Is Us” *cough*) and this show was a pioneer in that area. But you couldn’t succeed at that without a great cast. Soleil Moon Frye is tremendous in this episode. It takes a lot of talent to be able to elicit laughter and tears and she could do both at EIGHT YEARS OLD.
George Gaynes was terrific, too. He does such a great job embodying a tenderhearted curmudgeon. “Punky Brewster” exploits – for dramatic purposes – when those two sides of him create conflict. This episode did that to painful effect.
Susie Garrett does not get enough on-camera time with this show. But when she does, it’s great. Her line about putting Mr. T back together was almost the only levity in this entire episode.
After sitting on this episode for a few minutes, I am feeling a sense of relief. The writers can’t do TWO “Brandon gets hit by a car” episodes, can they? Our good boy should be in the clear now, right? (If you believe that anyone is ever safe, you have not paid close enough attention to Punky Brewster.)
I continue to want Punky Brewster in therapy. Just sayin’. That eight year old girl told her dying dog that she would rather have died herself than see him die. That is DARK for network television, right? This episode aired in 1985. Maybe it wasn’t as dark back then?
Mrs. Carney… ugh. I do not want to think about this. That poor woman ended this episode walking home alone. Truly alone. We had hope for her and then it was taken away. I further suspect the viewers will never hear about her again. Ugh. Delivering that gut-wrenching performance was Beah Richards. Her IMDB mini-bio:
Beah Richards left her native Vicksburg, Mississippi, for New York City in 1950. She would not acquire a significant role on stage until 1955, when she appeared in the off-Broadway show “Take A Giant Step” convincingly portraying an 84-year-old grandmother without using theatrical makeup. In 1962 she appeared in writer James Baldwin‘s “The Amen Corner” directed by noted actor/director/activist Frank Silvera, who told Richards “Don’t act, just be.” She credited Silvera with helping her further develop the subtlety and quiet dignity that distinguished all of her performances.
A prolific actress, poet and playwright, her first authored play was “All’s Well that Ends” that delved into the issues of racial segregation. Always ahead of her time, she defined herself as “Black” when the term “Negro” was the preferred ethnic/racial label of Black Americans. Richards would bring her salutary satisfaction with being “Black” and her immense acting talents to the role of the peacemaking mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), a role for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Additionally, she appeared in “Purlie Victorious” by Ossie Davis and “The Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman.
In 1988, she won an Emmy Award for her performance in Frank’s Place (1987). Although stricken with emphysema, she delivered a tour-de-force performance on the ABC legal drama The Practice (1997) in 2000; she received her second Emmy Award for this performance three days before her death in her native Vicksburg.
Serious praise out of the way, I think you know what I am going to bring up: Punky Power. It rendered yet another miracle. Punky Brewster *really* wanted her dog to live. Despite a vet’s recommendation to put him down, Punky told him to wake up, Brandon woke up, and Brandon was healed. We have had *some* evidence to this point that Punky Brewster has special abilities, but this is now the headliner miracle.
But did we find out in this episode that there are limits? Did the Resurrection of Brandon require one life for another? Balance? I do not recall a balance requirement in the earlier Punky Power miracles. I will go back and examine all of this more closely when we close out Season 1 and do a review of the whole thing.